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Ali Tritschler: How Coronavirus Reminded Me to be Grateful

Reflections from UGA Equestrian Team Senior & the effects Coronavirus has had on her last season as an NCAA Athlete

          It is a very unique time in history right now when everyone in the world is being affected by COVID-19. It is a time filled with fear, uncertainty, and change, but more importantly, a time when we can all use this unpleasant common ground to stand together and be there for one another.

         I have had the honor and privilege of being able to call myself a D1 athlete at the University of Georgia for the past four years. As a member of the school’s top-ranked Equestrian team, I have pushed myself academically and athletically with my team of 65 girls from across the country and world. Any athlete will tell you that a team like this, one you overcome hardships with and celebrate achievements with, becomes your family. It is natural to see the teamwork and familial bond within a group like this during the easy times — the times you are cheering each other on so loudly at a competition you lose your voice; the times you are blasting music in the locker room getting ready for a meet day; the times you are lucky enough to win a championship. But what many people don’t know is that it is much easier to recognize these qualities in a team during the hard times.

COVID-19, or the Coronavirus, changed so much in so many people’s lives. In my life, it unexpectedly changed the course of our teams’ season and the end of our college career.

At the beginning of last week, my teammates and I, along with all UGA students, were off enjoying a well-deserved spring break. A couple of days into our break, we were informed on a full-team conference call that our SEC championship would be canceled. Days after that, we received an e-mail that the NCEA had to cancel our National Championship and the rest of our season. As my heart was breaking for the class of 2020 and everything our team collectively accomplished this year, I couldn’t help but think of all of the memories and experiences we were all lucky enough to create over the past four years.

On the surface, one may think that our SEC and National Championships being canceled was the thing hurting us the most — and of course, these realities were hard to swallow. However, it was the lack of closure, I think, that hit UGA Eq the hardest. Yes, we wouldn’t be able to dress in the uniform for one last postseason and ride our hearts out for the team that has been our family for the past four years; but, more importantly, we wouldn’t be able to have our goodbyes.

To our coaches, Meghan Boenig, Anna Becker, and Sara Parr:

Thank you for everything you have helped this team accomplish in the last year. Thank you for having more confidence in us than we had in ourselves some days. Thank you for reminding us to be where our feet are. Thank you for only ever expecting brilliance because you knew we were always capable. Thank you for being our biggest supporters, the best teachers, and our second moms. From day one, you instilled in all 65 members that hard work, determination, presence, and a true love for our sport would carry us to all the success in the world. Of course, it was easier to see this some days over others, but it is a lesson and a lifestyle we will all carry on our individual paths for the rest of our lives. Thank you for being the backbone of our family and continuously making it your job in life to be there for us.

To our barn staff, Amber Bradley, Regan Rivas, Bill Dover, and the whole team:

Thank you for making our sport possible. Thank you for knowing our horses better than anyone else on the farm. Thank you for working your magic when the weather in Georgia really wanted to make it impossible for us to practice. Thank you for being there when a certain few ponies were reluctant to come inside. Thank you for loving on our favorite teammates when they needed it the most. Thank you for being there for all of the early mornings, late nights, and everything in between. Thank you for going above and beyond, quietly making things run smoothly, to make all of our lives easier. Without your constant care of our wonderful horses and our beautiful facility, we wouldn’t be able to do what we love every single day. Without you, UGA Equestrian would not exist.

To the Class of 2020:

Thank you for being my immediate family for the past four years. We have accomplished two SEC Championships, multiple reserve National Championships, and multiple individual National Championship titles, in our time together. Beyond that, you have led this year’s team with grace and passion. I am thankful for all of the early workouts, late days at the barn, weekend practices, pre-meet meetings, and everything in between. Although we won’t get to experience our last practice, our last two months of college, or our graduation together in Athens, I wouldn’t change any of it for the memories we have created in our time with each other. UGA Equestrian won’t be the same without the class of 2020, but it will forever be influenced by us.

To the rest of UGA Eq:

Thank you for completing our UGA Eq family for this season. I had the incredible opportunity to watch all of you grow and thrive whether you were a freshman getting used to the world of collegiate equestrian or a junior stepping up into a more demanding, upperclassman role. Every single one of you molds this team into the family we have come to know and love. I encourage you to use this unprecedented time as a chance to remind yourself how lucky we all are. Next year spend the extra time at workouts stretching, give your horse from practice an extra treat, tell your teammates how much they mean to you. Don’t take for granted the amazing opportunity we have been given as college athletes because, as this year proved to everyone, it can end in the blink of an eye without any warning. I am so proud of the team you have become and cannot wait to see the things you will accomplish together in the future.

If I have learned anything from the last couple of weeks, it is to not take anything in life for granted. It’s not that I didn’t recognize the privilege I had of being on the UGA Equestrian team or even being lucky enough to go to college; however, I never took the time each day to remind myself of that luxury. Like everyone else in the world, I have a couple of weeks to myself in quarantine to reflect on my past and plan for my future. Although I don’t know what a lot of it holds, I know that the minute I am able to see my team, the horses, the staff, and the coaches again, I will thank them for everything. Whether you are an athlete or not, a college student or not, make sure you remind the people in your life how much they mean to you and the impact they have on you. It is never too late to show gratitude.

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